By Kyle Harcott
One of Small Stone Recordings’ newest signings, Denver’s BLACK SLEEP OF KALI is a gnashy-fanged, two-headed beast, and they bring a decidedly more malefic edge to the label’s usual roster of retro-stoner suspects. The band’s first full-length, Our Slow Decay, constantly balances a tightrope between pronounced shades of Times Of Grace-era post-apocalypso, and modern-era thrash gallop on a par with Baroness, Bison, or High on Fire. As well, occasionally, the kind of vocal harmony work pops up that wouldn’t be out of place on an early ‘90s Dischord album – and holding the whole thing down, one hell of a masterful drummer in the drunken-fisted Gordon Koch. The band’s equally at home tossing around monolithic lightning bolts of slab-dirge as they are trotting through bone-jarring warhorse crunch, and Our Slow Decay is tempered with each equally.
“There Is Nothing” is the white-knuckled opener – a gnarled and bruising slab of Bataan-death-march; those harmonized vocals really leap out at the listener as the song plays out, running the gamut of sludgy influences. Spiraling into a throttling Neuro-jam halfway through, the song is one fierce first impression, and kept me severely interested in what they’d come up with next.
“The Crow and The Snake” follows and though musically the song’s steeped somewhat strongly in Baroness-isms, it’s still a thundering slab of battle-ready sludge that gives no quarter. And again, the fantastic vocals of Taylor Williams and Koch’s stand-alone drumming knock it out of the park for me. “In Time” plays out like Black Cobra with dual-part harmony vocals. “Eulogy” lays riffs down thick like a bed of hot road-tar. “Big Sky” brings a hefty jam into the proceedings, surely the most ‘stoner’-y of the tracks and it’s nice to hear the band sort of let it play fast and loose for once, because everything else on the disc is so teeth-grindingly precise; of course, it (d)evolves into more sky-splitting wallop in short order.
There’s really no filler to be found here; all of the tracks are knockouts. And though the opener is the album’s high note for me, the rest of the disc plays out very well, deftly straddling that slow/heavy, fast/heavy dichotomy. The band have done an impressive job of adopting the two aforementioned genres, and have come up with something, though at times derivative, still memorable enough to be worthy of your attention. I won’t argue that sometimes the band’s influences are definitely worn on their collective sleeve, but ultimately the songwriting on Our Slow Decay is strong enough to render that a moot point after a while.
8.5 / 10
(Small Stone Recordings)